Heartworm disease: Not just for canines

Indoor catsMost pet owners are aware of heartworm disease, the clinical symptoms, and how we can prevent this process from occurring in our four legged canine family members. However, many cat owners still remain unaware of the serious nature of the disease and the huge risk that it presents to their feline companions.  Feline heartworm disease manifests itself differently, although it can be just as life threatening in cats as in dogs.  According to Memorial Cat Hospital in Houston, TX, prevention is simple, and yet many feline owners remain unaware of the importance of monthly prevention in their pets. Unlike dogs, there is no treatment for eliminating heartworm disease in cats, making prevention all the more critical.

Although outdoor cats are at greater risk of being infected, a relatively high percentage of cats considered by their owners to be totally indoor pets also become infected. Overall, the distribution of feline heartworm infection in the United States seems to parallel that of dogs but with lower total numbers. There is no predictable age in cats to become infected with heartworms. Cases have been reported in cats from nine months to 17 years of age, the average being four years at diagnosis.

Heartworms do not need to develop into adults to cause significant disease and illness in cats.  Much of the clinical symptoms seen with Feline Heartworm Disease is caused by the microfilaria migrating through the lung tissue on the way to the cat’s heart.   Heartworm disease in felines affects the cat’s pulmonary system, not the heart, as in canine patients. Newly developing worms and the subsequent death of most of these same worms can result in acute pulmonary inflammation response and lung injury. This initial phase is often misdiagnosed as asthma or allergic bronchitis but in actuality is part of a syndrome now known as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

Monthly heartworm prevention is a simple, easy step that you as an owner need to take to keep your kitty happy and healthy for life!  If you have additional questions or need more information, please take the time to discuss with your veterinarian today!

To learn more about Feline Heartworm Disease and prevention of this insidious disease in our kitties, please visit The American Heartworm Society. Or, watch this informative video which explains heartworm disease in feline patients very well, and be sure to protect your furry feline friend.

 

Watch out for Leptospirosis

Star, a seemingly healthy 9 year old Boston terrier, had been unable to retain food for the last 24 hours.  After being examined at Caton Crossing Animal Hospital in Plainfield, Dr. Heather Stopinkski delivered the troubling news to Star’s family: Star may have leptospirosis.

An often fatal and contagious bacterial infection, leptospirosis is transmitted through the urine of livestock and wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, and rats.  In a recent study, 60% of raccoons were found to be infected with the bacteria.

Infection typically occurs when dogs drink from streams, ponds, or stagnant water where infected wildlife may have urinated.  Dr. Stopinkski warns, even if the dog walks through contaminated water, there is a chance the bacteria can enter through a cut on the paw.

Cats are naturally resistant to this bacterial infection, however it is possible for dogs to pass leptospirosis on to their human owners should they come in contact with the dog’s urine.  The infection is becoming more common in humans, with almost 200 cases of leptospirosis diagnosed each year.

Dr. Stopinski cautions even handling an infected dog with a cut on your hand or touching the dog and then putting something in your mouth can transmit the infection, which is just as dangerous to humans as it is to dogs.

Although symptoms may take a few days to manifest from initial infection, warning symptoms to look for in your pet include fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.  Typically, within the next few days following these initial symptoms, the dog will become lethargic, followed quickly by kidney and liver failure. Even if treated early enough, and the infected dog survives, Dr. Stopinksi has noticed the chance of permanent damage to the dog’s kidneys and liver remains high.

There has been an increase in infections in suburban areas due to the building of houses and resulting destruction of wildlife environment.  Dr. Stopinski realizes dogs now have a greater chance of contact with wildlife, and are thus becoming exposed more often. 

Fifteen years ago, the vaccine guarding against leptospirosis only protected against two strains of bacteria and caused adverse reactions such as vomiting, diarrhea, and breaking out in hives.  Today’s vaccine provides better coverage against the bacterial infection with fewer negative side effects.

Typically, puppies receive two injections given two to four weeks apart once they have reached 12 weeks old.  Dr. Stopinski suggests evaluating older dogs for the vaccine on a case-by-case basis depending on their exposure to wildlife and their present health conditions

Treatment for leptospirosis is aggressive, especially if the dog’s kidneys and liver have already failed.  Treatment includes hospitalization, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids.

Unfortunately for Star, the Boston terrier, treatment did little to cure the infection and she continued to decline in health.  The pain became unbearable and Star’s family made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize Star to alleviate her suffering.

It is important to talk with your veterinarian to determine if your dog runs the risk of contracting leptospirosis.  Get your dogs vaccinated against leptospirosis to protect your health and theirs.

The dangers of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that infects dogs, horses and small wildlife.  It is a life threatening zoonotic disease, or a veterinary disease that can also infect humans.  When an infected animal urinates or salivates on their environment, which may include your lawn, they leave enough bacteria to be infectious if ingested by your pets, states Mary Jean Calvi, LVT, at Pawling Animal Hospital in Pawling, NY.

Often referred to as “Lepto,” it is most often acquired through accidental ingestion of infected urine. However, the bacteria can also enter the body through open wounds, abrasions or mucus membranes in the eyes of nose.  The signs and symptoms of Lepto mimic signs of many other diseases which is why immediate diagnosis is important.  These symptoms include fever, lethargy, GI upset, loss of appetite, joint pain, nausea, excessive drinking, general malaise, jaundice, yellow foamy vomit, dark or bloody urine or unusual “accidents” in the house.

Prevention is the best medicine. Vaccinating your pet against Lepto can make a difference.  Make sure you talk to your vet about this important vaccine.

 

No fleas, please!

Fleas are not only a nuisance, but can also carry various disease and they are extremely prevalent in warm, humid environments cautions Dr. Rebecca Marr, DVM, at Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital in Virginia Beach, VA.

Many people believe that if they don’t see any fleas on their pet, then they don’t need to use a flea preventative; however, fleas are stealthy little parasites that have no trouble alluding detection by us while feasting on our poor companions. Their bite may only last a second but can leave a pet with a very strong itching sensation similar to when we get a bee sting. While your pet may have only been bitten once or twice by fleas, it could cause him to itch for hours afterwards depending on how sensitive he or she is to the bite. One female flea may lay thousands of eggs in the environment, leading to a severe infestation that may take months to eliminate from the home. You only see visible evidence of fleas on the pet or around the house if there are already too many of them!

Being blood sucking parasites, fleas have the ability to spread bacterial diseases to animals and humans in the household. They also carry tapeworms which the dog/cat ingests and becomes infected with. The best way to prevent exposure to diseases and tapeworms spread by fleas is to use monthly flea preventative on all of the animals in your household. Currently, there are many very safe and efficacious products flooding the market; everything from an oral pill to topical spot-ons. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the best option to protect you, your home, and your pet(s).

Submitted by:
Rebecca Marr, DVM
Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital
587 S Birdneck Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
(757) 428-4344
owlcreekveterinaryhospital.com

Parasite Control

Intestinal parasites such as hookworms and roundworms can be a troublesome concern, especially for very young animals. Most puppies/kittens are born with worms and dogs/cats remain susceptible to the harmful parasites throughout their lives. Worms live inside your pet, making the symptoms difficult to pinpoint, and are therefore detected through a fecal analysis. Internal parasites can not only harm your pet, but many can also be transferred to children and adults, making them sick as well.

Your hospital performs a fecal analysis on all new puppies and kittens. If your pet does have a parasite problem, your veterinarian can provide you with different medications and treatments to remedy the problem and steer your pet back to good health. Preventive care and prescription heartworm medication are key, because of the damages presented by intestinal parasites to both pets and people.

As a pet parent, you should ensure your pet is receiving the safest and most effective ongoing preventive care.